Opera Profile: Smetana’s ‘The Bartered Bride’

By David Salazar

It all started with national pride. 

When Bedrich Smetana met with Viennese conductor Johann von Herbeck, he heard a comment that immediately inspired him. The composer reportedly stated that the Czechs were incapable of creating their own music, which prompted the composer to set out on a mission to create a voice for his nation. 

It would take the composer a few years to fulfill this mission, but when he did, the result was “The Bartered Bride,” which premiered on May 30, 1866, four years after he had composed the first notes of the piece. The opera would go on to be one of his most popular works and one of the Czech staples of the opera repertoire alongside the works of Janacek and Dvorak’s “Rusalka.”

Short Plot Summary

Marenka wants to marry Jenik, but her parents want her to marry Vasek, the son of Tobias Micha. They try to convince her to do so through the marriage broker Kecal, but fail. Kecal determines to speak with Jenik, 

Vasek contemplates his future marriage. Marenka seeks him out disguised as another woman. She tells Vasek of how horrid Marenka is and even seduces Vasek, making him promise to give up Marenka. 

Kecal and Jenik come to an agreement on Marenka’s fate. Jenik agrees to be bought off to give up Marenka as long as she only marries Micha’s son. Everyone is appalled by Jenik’s actions. 

Vasek tells Marenka’s parents that he does not want to wed her any longer. However, when he realizes that she is the mysterious girl he met earlier, he agrees to marry her once again. Marenka laments Jenik’s betrayal. But when it is time to marry, it is revealed that Jenik is Misha’s older son and he has the right to Marenka’s hand. All rejoice. 

Watch and Listen

Here is a production from the Elizabethan Theatre Trust Opera Company.


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